Brown Girl Paranoia Syndrome (BGPS)

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For immigrant daughters or anyone straddling multiple cultures and spheres at once, you know for a fact that 95% of the mates you are in relationships with will never be someone who you can share with your family. Especially if you’re queer or love someone interracially/interreligiously/across class lines, etc., you know your relationships will always be a source of stressful secrets.

You’ll never be able to post pictures of your sweet PDA, or make your Facebook status about how you and your boo were so cute last night, or talk to your mother about the strange rituals you childishly get excited about, like dates or dances, or invite your mate over for dinner just because. While these may seem like superficial displays of affection, they illustrate a level of privilege–whether you are able to share with the world the person you care about, without imminent consequences.

Like many Arab queer gals, if I don’t mate with a heterosexual Muslim and Arab man with some level of financial stability, and eventually pop out some babies then there will be huge consequences. And these unnamed, innumerable consequences shadow me each day; I blatantly violate these expectations.

It’s a delicate balance of don’t ask, don’t tell. Where you tiptoe around topics of sex, sexuality, mating and dating as if you have no experience and don’t plan to until the day of your ‘katb kitab’ in order to not cause your parents immense emotional stress.

I’m always hesitant to voice these concerns without feeding into the ~oppressed brown girl forced to marry someone she doesn’t love~ stereotype. So let me say that your parents picking your mates is definitely not the end of the world. I know plenty of happy, healthy couples who fulfill their family and cultural expectations just beautifully. But for those of us who don’t, for those of us always ending up in the damn self-destructive deviant way of loving, it delays your ability to be honest within your own relationships. You are always hiding.

It’s like you live every day on the brink of collapse, where you hope today won’t be the one where the shit hits the fan—the one where your parents find that one piece of incriminating evidence of your secret life. You all know what happens to the sisters who’ve been through it, and how their family relationships never fully recovered from such a breach of trust.

Every time my parents call me on the phone, I think it’s because they’ve discovered that text or email or photo proving I’m queer. Or that I’ve dated people of different colors, or that I’ve done XYZ, and I always sigh a huge breath of relief when they’re just calling to tell me to buy a plane ticket or to call Nana to say salam.

I can’t write in my personal journal with full honesty and admission for fear of it falling into my family’s hands, even though I know they live 14 hours away. I can’t be seen acting affectionately with my partner in public places, because maybe some distant cousin will drive by and report our violation (A la Bend it Like Beckham, stereotypical or not, it’s hilariously accurate when the aunties see her holding hands with a GIRL. What’s worse, she was wearing shorts). Even at home, I speak with my friends through a series of intricate codes. As brown girls, we’re experts at the codes for everything—sex, drugs, rock n’roll, the whole sheesha and shebang. Our survival technique is based on a clever game where we change the meanings of words themselves to form a complicated web of references through which we hope to never get caught.

That’s why the ritual of coming out always confused me, as I am already accidentally shitting all over my parents’ expectations of who I should be, from modesty standards to religious piety to queerness. So why should I pointedly make an effort to reveal this arbitrary aspect of my transgression when it will only cause them pain and hurt for the sake of my self gratification?! It gets complicated.

And I know it’s fragmenting, that revolutions begin in the self, that you must live life as your whole self, and that it derives from structural oppressions yadda yadda. However, at this point I need to figure out how I can manage to stay on the tightrope for as long as possible.

Mami, babi, I’m hiding these things from you because I love you, and I know that it might have crossed your mind, or you might already know (including some things you might have never dreamed of me doing), but that you’re hiding it from me because you love me too.

As I texted my best friend awhile back, I feel like we’ll just keep living our double and triple lives well into adulthood. It’ll be this big inside joke between us, where the punchline is losing ourselves to absolute exhaustion, until we just say ‘Fuck it’.

In the meantime, we’ll delete every nude photo and erase every lesbian love poem written in the margins of our math books, only to hope that maybe somewhere in the universe, someone is proud of us for being ourselves fully, if only for a second.

Contributed by Syriasly Radical

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